The Skating Rink
round and round
1940's - 1980's
by: Russ Lancaster
with lots of help from Doug Gray, Nancy & Jim Pollard and Jean Nelson
One of the most popular forms of recreation in the late 1940's and throughout most of the 1950's was roller skating. Most kids had the "strap on" type of skates that were fastened to shoes with the help of a "key". These skates had steel wheels and were adjustable to almost any foot.
Sidewalks in Hamlet were busy with kids on roller skates zipping around. During Christmas season, the City of Hamlet closed the paved section of Seaboard Street between Washington Avenue and Spring Street exclusively for roller skaters.
Skates were affordable by all and a great source of wholesome fun and exercise.
Sometime around the late 1940's I was introduced to "The Skating Rink" in Rockingham. This turned out to be a very special place with a totally different outlook on skating.
I believe my first visit there was a church sponsored event for our Sunday School Class. Even though the boys and girl's classes were separated, this was a joint event for both sexes. It was a built in date waiting to happen without the hassle of having to ask a girl out.
The skating rink was located in a building on the left just before you entered Rockingham on Highway 74. This was in the days prior to the bypass. This large building was built out of cinder blocks and painted white. The upstairs was devoted to skating. The floor was varnished and shined just like the high school gym floors. You had to rent their skates or skate shoes when you paid your admission.
The music played continuously and the lights were dimmed for couples skating. They had paid skaters on the floor to assist beginners, fallers, and to stop skaters from tripping or otherwise interfering with the peaceful atmosphere.
Announcements were made from time to time over the loudspeakers advising what type of skating should be done. They included such things as " All Skate! Backwards Only! Trios! The Grand March! Couples Skate! (with the lights turned low)." Ahh, what fun.
One of my favorites quickly turned out to be "couples skate". I was allowed to actually put my arms around my girl (Sue Strickland way back then) and skate closely with her by my side as we listened to waltzes and such. We watched the older kids and soon learned how to cross hands and arms either in front or back and skate as one. Though too young to know of romance, I was not too young to learn of the importance of having a girl friend.
Of course, we boys also skated with one another but as individuals within a group as did the girls. We boys often opted for "speed skating" and sometimes squatted down low to buzz past a seemingly surprised girl or two. Going a little too fast or brushing by too closely would soon get one of the paid skating monitors on our case and we would have to leave the floor for a few moments.
Some of the better skaters loved skating backwards. They could and would spend long periods of time doing just that. I never mastered that particular skill.
As I grew older, Friday or Saturday nights at the skating rink would be the choice of some kid's birthday party or a group of us would go on our own. The price was reasonable and great times were had by most of us. Of course, a fall now and then would not go unnoticed but injuries were usually those of pride only.
The one thing the skating rink had in common with street or sidewalk skating was at the end of the session when you removed the skates. Walking suddenly became (for a short time) laborious. The first few steps without the skates were awkward after having been able to glide at a good speed for a long period of time. I often wondered why all folks didn't just use skates all the time. It made sense to me. It was a quicker way of getting around and fun to boot!
For those who became bored with skating, there was a bowling alley downstairs below the skating rink. There were ten alleys and a pin boy was responsible for setting the pins in two alleys. Doug Gray remembers Johnny Allen, a classmate, who worked there and had him substitute for him one Saturday night. The pin boy also had to roll the ball back to the bowler. There was NOTHING electronic about this bowling alley. You also rented your shoes when you paid to bowl. It too was a fun evening for scout or church group activities. It is also the place I learned to bowl.
I remember skating at the skating rink all those days as a young boy and as I grew into my teens. I lost my touch as I grew into a young man having left those days behind and concentrating on working for a living and raising my ever growing family.
I took my son and daughters to that same skating rink as they became old enough to learn how to skate and each time they begged me to strap on a pair and get on that old polished wooden floor with them. Sometimes I obliged but as I aged my skills dwindled. I doubt they skate anymore either these days.
I do have a daughter that ice skates here in Jacksonville and a grandson who took to the ice soon after he learned to walk. As I watched them skate on the cold, hard surface I thought back to the time I spent at the skating rink in Rockingham and soon enough came the words from my daughter, "Come on, Dad." "Get on the ice with us."
I politely declined and as I watched them reach the far end of the oval my mind drifted back to the music, sounds and experiences of "my" skating rink back in Rockingham. And I thought then as I do now as I finish this tale.... Yes, I remember those days and most of all... I remember Hamlet.
This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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